RJD chief Lalu Prasad, 15 others convicted in a fodder scam case, sentencing on January 3
A special CBI court on Saturday convicted former Bihar chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and 15 other people in a 21-year-old fodder scam case.
Special judge Shivpal Singh, however, acquitted, six others including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra in the case related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 90 lakh from the Deoghar treasury during 1991-1994.
The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on January 3.
Those convicted included three IAS officers, former animal husbandry department officials and two other politicians – for JD-U MP Jagdish Sharma and former Bihar minister RK Rana.
RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said the party will challenge the verdict in the Jharkhand high court.
Lalu remained defiant even after the verdict.
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes...But still prevails...In the end though,” the RJD chief tweeted after he was taken into custody and sent to Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail.
“Had people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Baba Saheb Ambedkar failed in their efforts, history would have treated them as villains. They still are villains for the biased, racist and caste-ist minds. No one should expect any different treatment,” he said in another tweet.
The fodder scam, probed by the CBI, relates to fraudulent withdrawal of nearly Rs 900 crore between 1990 and 1995 when public funds were swindled from different treasuries for fictitious spends on fodder and other expenses for cattle.
This is the second fodder scam case in which Prasad has been convicted. On September 30, 2013, he was convicted in another case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore from Chaibasa treasury.
The conviction got Prasad five years in prison, disqualification from Parliament and a ban on contesting elections. He was given bail by the Supreme Court in December, 2013.
Lalu, who has spent 365 days in prison in varying stretches of days, is facing trial in three other cases along with Jagganath Mishra.
Despite the corruption taint, Lalu remained the messiah for a large section of people in Bihar that enabled him to spectacularly decimate the BJP in the 2015 assembly polls amid a countrywide wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, the grand alliance he had stitched together fell apart when the Nitish Kumar-led JD (U) broke off earlier this year, leaving the RJD and Congress in the opposition.
Credited with stopping BJP leader LK Advani’s ‘rath yatra’ in Bihar prior to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Lalu was being portrayed as a key cog in a potential secular opposition alliance to take on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls, due in 2019.
The BJP, which has successfully used its anti-corruption plank to win election after election, was quick to target Lalu and his ally Congress.
“The alliance between Congress and Lalu Prasad’s party is an alliance of corruption, connivance and cheating the people of India, it is clear from the verdict of the court,” Union minister JP Nadda told reporters in Delhi.
“Lalu Prasad is even now politicising the issue instead of accepting the verdict, just to deviate, he is leveling allegations of conspiracy on BJP,” Nadda added.
RJD supporters too remained unfazed by the development.
“Tere peeche sara zamana, Lalu Prasad tum mat ghabrana” (Lalu Prasad you need not worry, the entire world is with you),” Lalu’s supporters shouted as he was being taken to jail. Police had to use force to disperse the crowd that was threatening to turn violent.
Many RJD supporters, in cars and motorbikes, followed the cavalcade up to the jail.
Raghuvansh Prasad Singh reacted angrily to the judgment.
“What an irony it is that while co-accused Jagannath Mishra has been acquitted, Prasad has been jailed.”
Lalu’s younger son, Tejaswi, who accompanied his father, was seen discussing with lawyers and family members in the court.
RJD leaders said in the absence of his father, Tejaswi – a former deputy chief minister – is likely to lead the party.
Trial against Prasad in the case related to Deoghar treasury was revived after the Supreme Court on May 8 restored the corruption charges which were dropped by the high court.
In August, Prasad accused the judge Shivpal Singh of misbehaving with a defense witness and moved the high court seeking transfer of the case to another court. The high court, however, dismissed Prasad’s petition.
As many as 38 people were named as accused in the case. While 11 of them died during trial, two became CBI witnesses and two had pleaded guilty.
(With agency inputs)